Award Information

Institutional Affiliation (at time of award):
Anthropology & Sociology
The Power of Shared Heritage: China’s Belt Road Initiative and the politics of Silk Road Heritage

This project examines the emerging discourses of "Silk Road" heritage being promoted by China as part of the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI). In 2013, Xi Jinping formally announced the BRI, a multinational global development and infrastructure initiative involving more than 124 countries. To gain public support for the initiative China is promoting 'people-to-people bonds' as one of five strategic 'cooperation priorities' (NDRC, 2015). Cultural heritage is identified as a key tool by which to foster these bonds. Within public and official discourse, the BRI is being framed as a revitalization of the ancient "Silk Roads". History, culture, and heritage are being used to cultivate notions of shared transregional histories and identity between and across the countries of Eurasia and beyond. In doing so, the heritage of nation states, and ethnic and religious groups are circumvented, the significance of national borders lessens, and new identities are forged. Cooperation between Central Asian nations and China is critical to the success of the BRI's Overland Economic Belt which spans the length of the Eurasian continent. The strategic location, complex history of the region, and shifting national and regional identities provides an analytically productive context in which to investigate how shared heritage is being framed, utilised, and/or contested. This research aims to develop a genealogy of the emerging concept of 'shared heritage' and, using theories of cosmopolitanism, advance a conceptual framework for understanding the socio-cultural implications of its use. Using this framework, field research will be conducted in three BRI partner countries, Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, and Kyrgyzstan, to determine: 1.) if specific notions of shared heritage are manifesting within national, regional, and localised contexts, and 2.) if such ideas are extant, how are they affecting conceptions of identity and the lived experiences of individuals.